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What did you expect?


What did you expect? When I first started visiting casinos I only used to play the house games ie blackjack and roulette, but once I started playing poker I could not bring myself to play the house games any more as I was aware of the inbuilt “house edge”

Now these games have an inherent built in edge against you but for the buzz of playing and sometimes winning you can put up with this as a sort of “cost” for your pleasure and paying for pleasures is not an unfamiliar principal among poker players. On a roulette table for example you win 35 chips for each chip you have on a winning number whereas there are 37 possible numbers. If you have a bet on certain number ranges, colours etc and the ball drops in zero you lose either all or half of such bets. This is the built in house edge. Obviously this edge can be slightly overcome if you are sleeping with a croupier who is skilled enough to spin the ball into a certain section and whether such an activity is a pleasure or a chore would depend on the croupier you were required to service for the service. Now, if , for the sake of argument the overall house edge , long-term was say about 4% this means that over a given period of time from all bets , looking at all customers as one global single customer, the house should make a gross profit of around 4% of the total gross bets made on each roulette table.

Individual customers never appreciate what this might be as they tend to consider Roulette turnover and the consequential profit and loss in the same way as sexual activity. They only consider or care about their own performance or the performance of others that they see. If I were to say that I had developed a system of placing bets that would reduce the house edge to say 1% long term and I was going to the casino to operate this new bet placing system but was only going to have one single spin on the roulette wheel, you may ask following questions; How stupid am I that I would want to develop a system that would still result in an inherent edge against me? That is similar me asking to be punched once in the face as one punch would hurt less than several punches, surely better to not ask in the first place. This is a similar principal to some Omaha players that try to justify a gamble by saying that they want to take on an opponent who they think holds aces, all-in pre-flop, because they have a good hand for cracking aces. What they actually mean is that they are happy to get their money into the pot in bad shape, because they could be in worst shape. Having said that, given the way some of the Americans play it may well be a significant result for them to get their stacks into the pot pre-flop in only quite bad shape and if push comes to shove they can also justify the play by creating their own pot odds by over-betting the hand in the first place. (I am talking more in tournament terms here).

I suppose if you look at it in terms of paying for your pleasure it might be seen more like the frequent player discount card Marc Goodwin has for Spearmint Rhino.

Another point you might like to raise is that how can you base a decision on a set of criteria inherently designed to be most effective and accurate (or less un-profitable in this case) over the long-term and then only operate that strategy in a one off situation, having just one bet on one spin. This means that whatever calculations and considerations you have made in order to develop the strategy and decision making process is completely redundant and the success or failure of your visit to the roulette table (subject to any sexual favours you may have adequately or otherwise performed for, or on, the croupier either on your own or with a friend or acquaintance) will only be determined by the luck you have in that one single spin, as there is no long term to even out variance if you are only having one go.

In poker there are many situations where you can reasonably have a certain long-term expectation and many players base a large portion of their decision making on their understanding and determination of that expectation. Obviously poker players try to have a positive expectation in every decision they make and there are many examples of positive expectation to be found in poker players away from their actual poker play; Nik Persaud has a positive expectation of making every GUKPT final table. Neil Channing has a positive expectation of either winning or sponsoring the winner of every other Major European poker tournament.

Karl Mahrenholz has a positive expectation of looking down on every other player at every poker tournament (because he is so tall rather than because his head is up his own bottom, which it is not) Tony Phillips has a positive expectation of a trip to the dry cleaners after visiting a lap dancing club. James Akenhead has a positive expectation of both folding/showing his cards with more flair than any opponent and also pulling an attractive female poker player, if he wishes, every time he visits the Gutshot Poker Club. Marc Goodwin has a positive expectation, period!!

I try to help many players by giving online tuition and I often hear players talking about positive expectation and the expected value of making certain calls. They sometimes will call/fold and the primary reason is that they believe that in the long run making the call/fold will be a profitable play. I try to get all players I am trying to help to use positive expectationand expected value only as a tool to assist them, if required, in making a decision in any given, usually marginal, situation. I believe that many players are over-using and incorrectly using these tools to justify making decisions rather than as a tool to make the decision, which is clearly what they should be doing. As an example, I had a player holding 92 off suit in the small blind and with 5 limpers was wondering whether he should call and the only consideration in his mind was whether or not such a call would be a “profitable call” long term. With 5 specific players at that stage of the game with their specific playing styles and mind sets at that time and their specific (unknown) hands, there absolutely is no long term by which any such decision can be based as for all intent and purposes this is a one off never to be repeated situation and any decision based on long term criteria is as redundant as the roulette betting system using one spin on the roulette. What he should have been doing was considering the players, his position, his stack and the likelihood that the potential and likely reward justified the risk/cost of making the call. Whether he should or should not make the call is not the point and in my view is secondary to the basis on which he makes the decision. The decision should be based on the information and criteria available at that time and not on a theoretical long term that will never in reality never happen.

In my view making the most sensible and logical decision possible at the time given the information available and your analysis of that information is the most effective way of achieving long term poker success and allowing your ego or a desire to not necessarily be seen, perceived, or accused of making a weak play should not affect your decision and you should act based on what you believe rather than what you believe you can justify after the event.

Tue, 28th September 2010

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